Grinding to a Vault: A Modern Couple Make a Lifelong Commitment


Photos by Melissa Hesse of Rivets and Roses

Maybe it started with self-written wedding vows, it being the love story of Gerald Strauss and Brian Strempke.   “We did write our own vows and this was very important to me,” Gerald remembers. “I think that when couples write their own vows it really helps set the tone for the celebration and I wanted to make sure that people knew why we were getting married to each other.”

And that formalized pledge was no flight of fancy. “I worked on my vows for a couple of weeks and I was overjoyed with how Brian and our guests received them,” Gerald continues. “The process of writing our wedding vows was very unique to how Brian and I do work. I had my vows written down and didn’t touch them once I printed off the paper, but Brian was making last-minute corrections all the way up until the ceremony started. We even have a photo of our printed vows, last minute corrections included!”

Or maybe it — the love story, remember — started with the rising of Yuletide. “Christmas is our favorite holiday by a long shot and Brian can become very excited by receiving gifts,” Gerald reports. “Brian has absolutely no patience so it’s really fun to wrap presents early and taunt him.” Ah, love.

This taunt was more strategy than sadism. “Well, I decided to do just this with an engagement ornament and rings!” Gerald enthuses. “I went on to Etsy and ordered an engagement ornament — I then wrapped the ornament with Hershey’s Hugs & Kisses and placed the gift under the tree two weeks before gift opening. Talk about making a person anxious!”

The pulling of this particular Christmas Story’s Red Ryder’s trigger did not shoot anyone’s eye out. “The proposal was very sweet, and I don’t think Brian expected it, which was perfect!” Gerald recalls. “Our dog, Buddy, got into some of the chocolate so we had to remove it from his mouth, and being the submissive boy that he is, decided to release his bladder right there on the living room floor 30 seconds after Brian said, ‘Yes!'”

Or maybe the love story started with two, tech-savvy men. “Brian and I are a Grindr success story!” Gerald declares. “I thought I would take a chance at messaging an empty profile, and there was Brian. Whoever would have thought that I would have been so fortunate to have random luck?”

Things progressed in the usual way from there, kind of. “After our initial chatting we FaceTimed a couple of times before our first date at Broder’s Pasta Bar,” Gerald discloses. “We both really enjoy cooking and food so Broder’s was a natural choice. Our first date went wonderfully. The dinner and conversation were fantastic. After sharing tiramisu for dessert, we walked around Lake Harriet. It was a beautiful night with a beautiful sunset.”

This led to a formalized bonding that, in retrospect, seemed inevitable. “We were really looking forward to celebrating with our friends and family,” Gerald reminisces. “The wedding was such a major event that we were really looking forward to the day finally arriving!”

Still, hindsight has proven 20/20 for both men. “It was the most perfect day,” Gerald gushes. “Everything went by so perfectly. While we were sitting in our room waiting to walk to the ceremony our guests were posting pictures online and it was so awesome to see, and I’ll never forget it.”

The ceremony that ensued was meant to reflect the inner workings of the soon-to-be-minted couple. “The wedding that we created was exactly what we wanted, and if we ever did it again, I would want a repeat!” Gerald insists. “I wanted a big party with all my friends and family celebrating this amazing moment in our lives, and I also wanted to create something that was very personal. We wanted people to leave our wedding and say to themselves, ‘That was really them!'”

But in order for the ceremony to be repeated, it would have to take place in the first place…and half of the couple proved somewhat ambivalent toward that prospect. “Brian was okay going down to the courthouse and getting married there,” says Gerald, “but that wasn’t going to do it for me!”

Gerald intended to make a public statement of love, devotion, and Pride. “I wanted to incorporate themes of social justice, love, commitment, and family,” he says. “We started wedding planning a year in advance and it all started with meeting with our friend Raed Kakish, who is also a top wedding planner in town and co-owns Indulge and Bloom. He gave us some ideas and we were off to the races. We really wanted to create a memorable and personable wedding.”

Personal, individual details brought the ceremony into sharper focus. “Brian really enjoys the piano so we hired a pianist to perform some of our favorite songs on the piano as our guests arrived for the ceremony,” Gerald reports. “Our guests were also greeted with a glass of champagne which really helped set the mood for the evening.”

And then, *the* moment had arrived. “Brian and I walked down the aisle to ‘Marry You’ by Bruno Mars,” Gerald says. “Our officiant was a friend of mine that I met at The Firm, and he absolutely exceeded my expectations of a ceremony program.”

With the deed done, one surprising feeling superseded all others. “The one emotion that I certainly felt right away was calmness,” Gerald reveals. “I was married and starting this new chapter in life with my husband, and I couldn’t be happier. I am so excited to see what the future holds for us!”

While the ceremony was carefully crafted, the couple has found that the actual marriage requires more than a pinch of improvisation. Gerald opines, “The most important lesson was to recognize that there were going to be small issues along the way, but that we shouldn’t let it ruin the day for even a second.”

Contemplation reveals a fascinating synchronicity. “Our marriage is first and foremost a reflection of the love and respect we have for each other,” Gerald states. “Our first date took place on August 1, 2013, which is the date that love became the law, so we also wanted to celebrate and have fun with that as well. And the white frosted cake that revealed a rainbow when cut open was just too fun to pass up!”

Gerald and Brian have since found themselves coming out again and again — not just as gay men, but as married gay men. “Like so many others, living openly and comfortably has been a journey for us,” admits Gerald. “Outing ourselves has become second nature, as we’ll drop comments about our husband without even thinking of it. Inevitably, anybody that spends more than a few minutes [with us] will figure it out, whether we are doing it consciously or not.”

In the end, when the love story began doesn’t really matter. The only thing that matters is that, from the looks of it today, the love story will never end.

Melissa Hesse of Rivets and Roses
Wedding Planner: Indulge and Bloom, Raed Kakish
Bakery: Sweet Retreat
Venue: Millennium Hotel, Tina
Dance Lessons: Ballroom & Wedding Dance Studio, Tom Larson
Pianist: Kraig Windschitl
DJ: Leif Anderson

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